Comment on the role of the Teacher Librarian in practice with regard to the Principal’s support.
The role and responsibilities of the teacher librarian in the twenty-first century are constantly changing and evolving due to the rapid advancement of digital technology, and the demand for easier access to information from increasingly varied areas and resources. As the school library is such an important source of both print and digital information, it is vital for the teacher librarian to obtain the full support of the principal when planning and implementing an efficient and innovative resource centre.
The role of the teacher librarian has culminated from the incorporation of two professions, a teacher and a librarian, and regulated by specifically developed professional standards and qualifications. The Collins English Dictionary (2013) defines a teacher as “a person whose occupation is teaching others, especially children’’, and a librarian as “a person who works in, or is in charge of a library”. These two roles were perceived by school communities to be separate and distinct from one another but became merged with the introduction of the Australian School Library Association (ASLA) and Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) (2004) professional standards for the professional practice of teacher librarians in Australian schools. The teacher librarian’s role was now clearly defined as providing “curriculum knowledge and pedagogy combined with library and information management knowledge and skills” (ASLA & ALIA standards (2004).
Sixty years ago Winifred B Linderman quoted in an article that “The principal’s support of the library as a vital part of the educational system is extremely important” (Oberg, D. (2006) however in reality, the teacher librarian is often considered a specialists role and therefore effective collaboration with other staff members and the principal in regards to the school community’s curricular expectations and requirements is rare or non-existent. As Carl Harvey II an American teacher librarian noted that “All specialists need support from the culture of the school” and particularly “the support of the principal is a particular key to success” (Harvey, C. A. (2009). Dianne Oberg (2006) maintains that gaining respect and support from a principal is the major challenge currently facing teacher librarians, and that they often have low expectations of principal support. However, she also argues that research has shown that a lack of communication between both parties has prevented more support and understanding from the principal in relation to the management of the school library and its resources (Oberg, D. (2006).
In my opinion effective collaboration with all staff members is the key to the successful implementation of teacher librarian roles within all school communities and that a principal’s support is integral to the development of a strong media rich resource centre designed to inform, instruct and encourage a student’s independent learning. Heidi Kast principal of Waldon Middle School, Michigan USA, expects her media specialist “to partner with my teachers to develop and implement inquiry based research projects” and “teach critical skills” when researching and reading (The 21st Century Media Centre Program, (n.d). I believe principals overall are aware of the changing demands, expectations and responsibilities of teacher librarians, and are formulating collaborative plans to adjust to these changes resulting in benefits for the whole school community.
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Australian School Library Association (ASLA) and Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA). (2004). Library standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians, available http://www.asla.org.au/policy/standards.aspx
Collins Dictionary. (2013). Definition of teacher. Retrieved March 25, 2013 from http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/teacher?showCookiePolicy=true
Collins Dictionary. (2013). Definition of librarian. Retrieved March 25, 2013 from
Harvey, C. A.11. HANDS on HANDOUT. What should an Administrator expect as School Media Specialist to be? Library Media Connection (October 2009).
Oberg, D. (2006). Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Teacher Librarian, 33(3), 13-18.
The 21st Century Media Center Program (n.d.) Michigan Association for Media in Education. YouTube video available from http://www.mimame.org